Campaigners on an anti-fracking activist camp have been told they are trespassing after bailiffs issued warning notices on Friday.
A 29-year-old man was arrested on suspicion of assaulting an enforcement officer after the officer is alleged to have been pushed from a gate.
The bailiff was attempting to gain access to the property where the camp is located, which is now owned by fracking company IGas.
Protesters claim he threw himself on the ground as video footage emerged of the incident.
Activists claim the IGas bailiffs refused to provide identification and allege one officer assaulted a number of residents at the camp after they tried to obstruct the officers gaining entry onto their property.
A group of campaigners set up camp off Duttons Lane, Upton, last April with the permission of the farmer who previously owned the land before selling to IGas in recent months.
The camp was set up to prevent energy firm IGas drilling an exploratory borehole in the middle of a field.
IGas is scouring the country looking for methane in the underground layers of coal and shale but one potential extraction method, known as fracking, is particularly controversial.
Campaigners who set up camp to protect their community fear air and water pollution as well as earthquakes and worry it will delay the switch to renewables, like solar power, given climate change.
Notices placed around the camp this morning warned camp residents the land is now owned by IGas Energy Plc and there is no longer any right for them to occupy the land without the consent of the owners.
The campaigners said they would not move from the site as they had not received an official eviction notice.
The sign read: “To whom it may concern. Please note that the leasehold interest in this land at Upton Grange, Long Lane, Chester is now owned by Dart Energy (West England) Limited and IGas Energy Plc (“the owners”) and there is no right to occupy this land without the lawful licence or consent of the owners.
“Any persons occupying or possessing this land are doing so as trespassers without the legal consent of the owners and should cease such occupation with immediate effect.”
Supporter of the campaign group, Dr Steven Peers who filmed the incident, said: “The security personnel were challenged and asked for their details and SIA identification numbers, which they failed to provide, a breach of SIA regulations.
“The PCSO’s and private security have no right to be on the property which is lawfully occupied under article 61 of the Magna Carta 1215.”
Upton Labour councillor and anti-fracking activist Matt Bryan said: “This is an intimidatory tactic by police.
“If anyone is in doubt of what IGas intentions are, they have just made a very large investment very close to schools, the zoo and to a very large residential area.
“How much money have Cheshire Police wasted by working as private security for IGas?
“They wasted £280,000 last year policing on fracking protests – they clearly haven’t learnt their lesson.”
A representative of Frack Free Upton campaign group, Phil Coombe has presented parish councillors with results of a residents’ survey they conducted.
This revealed that 86% of more than 3,000 residents consulted were against any form of exploration and development.
Mr Coombe said: “We’ve conducted our own survey and more than 3,000 people were against fracking in the area. Four percent were for the idea.
“That is an incredible and powerful number. It’s ludicrous it’s still allowed to go ahead.”
Company and police response
A spokesman for IGas, said: “We respect the right to peaceful protest however, we do not condone any activities that are unlawful or impact on local businesses and communities in the area as they go about their daily lives and work.
“We expect the protestors, having now made their point, to move on.”
Inspector Paul Williams, of Chester Local Policing Unit, said: “We were informed about the intentions of a local gas company to give notice this morning. We were in the area. Clearly, as we do with many things, we deploy to make sure there are not breaches of the peace.
“At 8.55am we had to deploy to the area to investigate an incident and a 29-year-old male was arrested on suspicion of assault.
“Any allegations of any further assaults will be picked up and investigated by us.”
What do you make of the notice given to the camp? Where do you stand on the issue? Let us know in the comments below